Cultural Rant

I had gone to a happy hour with a whole bunch of Asian peeps. Most of us didn’t know each other, so the most common question was “What do you do?” I said that I had two jobs: one’s for money to feed my body, the other is my passion to feed my soul. Everyone else answered with some form of IT, engineer, or finance. In the Asian culture, we’re taught from the womb that we are to take practical jobs. I don’t know, but Tom Cruise’s acting career has proven to be pretty practical.

Where the slanty eyes?

Where the slanty eyes?

Back in my day when I taught kids self-defense, my teacher had taken on a new student, who had been on this planet for three-and-a-half years. He could barely speak, couldn’t remember the names of the techniques to save his life, but he learned the movement like he learned to speak, and became an amazing talent. As this young prodigy moved toward his black belt, toward adulthood, my teacher and I began to have pretty severe disagreements with our school and the prevailing arrogance and ignorance that bred within the limited bindings. It’s funny how arrogance and ignorance always seem to go hand-in-hand. And this school was literally the pure definition of this.

Tombstone of Fluid Man

Tombstone of Fluid Man

We finally left the school as we sought for widespread knowledge, much like Bruce Lee leaving the classical mess for something more open, taking what works and throwing out the rest. This was not something our former school understood, since they added more and more crap that only bred more ignorance and of course more arrogance.

Why do I bring this up?

My teacher tried to convince the parents that their son would be better off with him. They couldn’t, wouldn’t leave the school, despite the now adult having spent most of his life with the same teacher. The mother, especially, wanted her son to have earn his blackbelt from a Chinese martial arts school. And here’s the funny part. The school wasn’t even run by Asians. Sure, the system was Chinese; though, I’m not sure what that means (no slanty eyes to mark the school). Sure, there were Chinese characters imbued all over the school. Sure, they even had Chinese dignitaries and masters that would come by and teach seminars. But do those things make a martial arts, school, or practitioner Chinese? A freakin' punch is a frakin' punch no matter who throws it.

International Village People

International Village People

It’s that word: culture. According to my dictionary, one of the definitions is: the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

The customs of the school is Asian based, so not uniquely Chinese. The arts can be rooted back to Korea, Karate, some Kung Fu, but even the word Kung Fu is like saying Asian. There’s a lot of different Asians, and some of them Ajens don’t even consider themselves Asians. Most of the people teaching aren't even Asian. So when I heard that the mother didn’t want her son to be taught by my teacher because he wasn’t Asian, and she wanted her son to get his black from a Chinese based institution, I was beside myself, like I actually took a step to the side and was like “What? Get over yerself, lady.” And since the school had been based in the US, the achievements of that school, especially in international tournaments were considered US of Aye, not China, not any slanty-eyed nation.

The word culture has been on my mind since I started writing the 7th Province series because I’ve had to piece together the foundation of the society. A lot was drawn from my own experiences, a lot was invented, and a lot was used to help tell the story without giving too much away, through symbolism. Now, I’m not saying I’m an expert on what culture is, what it means, but I know this lady doesn’t really know what she was talking about. It’d be better if she had stated that she wanted her son to have the backing of an actual institution, and not by a single individual. As much as people see me as an American is how much I see this school as being Chinese.

My Dad Can Strike Your Dad Down

My Dad Can Strike Your Dad Down

Ultimately, she wanted to say that her son got her black belt from this school, not by an individual. And this is where culture and ego sort of mesh together, and it is from this place that I wrote the foundation of the culture of the 7th Province. Culture is very ego based. We see this in nations: America is the best country in the world. We see this in sports: My team won the championships. We see this in ethnicities: Blacks are the most athletic and can dance the best, or Asians are very disciplined. We see this in family: My dad can beat up your dad.

People throw the word culture around without knowing what they really mean. And some people love their culture so much, have so much pride in it, compare how much better it is than American culture that they’ve chosen to move here.

Just a Friday night rant.

The Earth is Flat

A flat Earf

A flat Earf

How crazy is it? There is an actual society, a group, that believes the Earth is flat like a plate sitting on a flat table in the middle of a flat field on a flat Earth. Um...what? Despite the plethora, myriad, the millions of freakin' pictures, and apparently no evidence of an edge, these peeps perpetuate the idea that the Earth ain't a sphere. Get out much?

Don't touch me there!

Don't touch me there!

Last Halloween, I went to a party with a whole bunch of adults trying to reclaim their childhood glory days. I was dressed as an Asian man in American clothes. A friend of mine saw a sculpture, a bust, and asked me if that was Yip Man, Bruce Lee’s famed teacher. I’ve never met the Man (get it?) and shrugged. The party was held at a Wing Chun / Yoga studio in San Francisco. A cowboy said that was his Wing Chun teacher. I’ve met a Wing Chun master before and asked him a question about the system. If you’ve read my bio, then you know my absolute love and devotion and complete disregard for the classical martial arts. Though, I will admit, Wing Chun does something that most classical martial arts don’t do.

Uh...what?

Uh...what?

“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line,” he said, supporting one of the main tenets of Wing Chun. This ain’t no math class. I would know. I came to the party as an Asian. Circular strikes aren’t really taught in Wing Chun. All their strikes come from the center of the body with little to no movement in the hips or shoulders for speed.

Time for bed

Time for bed

Now, it’s true, the shortest distance is a straight line. So why do boxers have hooks, uppercuts, overhands along with their jabs and straights? Simple. Limiting your strikes limits the amount of tools and avenues of attacks. And if the boxer is good, they can set up strikes and hide circular ones like an uppercut. Sneaky. Add kicks to it, and not only do you have to worry about punches but kicks. Take a fight to the ground, and all of the sudden the fight changes completely, needing a completely different skill set.

That’s what we have today. Mixed martial arts are a combination of different martial arts. Duh. As Bruce Lee always taught when he came to America, take what’s useful and throw out the rest. For those classical martial artists, like my former school, they hold on to their tenets, doctrines, dogmas created thousands of years ago. They’re like Catholic priests who don’t believe in evolution. Nothing is more evident of the evolution of martial arts than the Ultimate Fighting Championship, better known as the UFC.

Deodorant much?
Deodorant much?

The initial idea was to see which martial arts was the best. They had boxers, Karate masters, wrestlers, etc. But most infamous was Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). When the UFC first started, there were no weight classes. So you could have a 300-pound man fight a 178-pound dude. And that’s basically what happened. The tournament winner, Royce Gracie, a 178-pound man, was a BJJ whiz, submitting all his opponents to win.

All of a sudden, everyone started to study BJJ. BJJ schools touting the Gracie name popped all over the place. Karate? Kung Fu? Boxing? Kick boxing? Pff. Waste O'time.

Then evolution kicked in. Since the UFC was basically a no-holds-bar kinda fight, with some rules, people started to put things together. Wrestlers were great at getting the fight to the ground and keeping an opponent down, but had to learn how to strike and submissions; strikers began to learn how to avoid getting put on the ground and learned BJJ and wrestling (grappling); BJJ practitioners needed to learn how to strike and incorporate wrestling; and round and round we go. Nowadays, it’s very difficult to be successful in the UFC if you aren’t what they call a complete fighter, having a complete grasp of submission, striking, and grappling skills.

Gimme yo lunch money!

Gimme yo lunch money!

The need for evolving one’s skills became evident in UFC 60, when then current welterweight champion, Matt Hughes fought Royce Gracie. Remember, Gracie is a master submission artist (BJJ Blackbelt), but he lacked striking and wrestling, something Hughes had in his arsenal. Ultimately, Hughes used strikes and wrestling to get Gracie down to the ground, almost submitted the submission master, but ended the fight in the first round with strikes.

I’m not saying that for someone to be able to defend themselves on the street, they have to be a MMA fighter. But training only in straight lines can be limiting. Stranger even, my former martial arts school practiced hundreds of highly complicated techniques in the air that would not work on a real person (I’ve tried with friends), having little idea of what’s it like to deal with the physical weight of a real person like grapplers do. At least Wing Chun has a lot of partner drills, something that seems to escape my former teachers.

So why am I writing about this on a site that mainly talks about storytelling, trying to promote my book NIGHTFALL? The time to submit (get it?) query letters is fast approaching. And I love talking shit about my former school. How crazy is it? They had a whole meeting about little ol'me when I wrote this article. Get out much?